Reducing fine particulate matter (PM2.5) emissions should be an urgent public health priority and policy measures should be introduced to address pollution from the worst offenders such as diesel vehicles.
That’s according to Dr Nay Aung, a cardiologist and Wellcome Trust research fellow, who has just published a new study looking of 4,255 participants from the UK Biobank which found linear relationships between ambient PM2.5 levels and cardiac structure and function. Every 5μg/m3 increase in exposure was associated with a 4-8 per cent increase in left ventricular (LV) volume and a 2 per cent decrease in LV ejection fraction.
The research also found people with higher education levels were less likely to experience harmful effects on the heart from pollution. This could be due to a number of factors including better housing and workplace conditions, being more aware of their health, having healthier lifestyles, and better access to healthcare.
Dr Aung warned that while average exposure to PM2.5 in the UK is about 10μg/m3, below the European target of less than 25 μg/m3, “we are still seeing these harmful effects”. He added: “This suggests that the current target level is not safe and should be lowered.”